5 tips for taking your young child to the dentist

Posted By: manager

Published on Aug 01, 2019

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The dentist’s office can be an intimidating place for anyone. But this is especially true for young children who don’t understand the necessity of regular dental check-ups. 

As adults we know that while having preventative dental work done can be unpleasant, it is immensely preferable to the pain and suffering caused by serious oral problems. 

As a parent or guardian you can make trips to the dentist much less intimidating and, while it may be hard to believe, even an experience that your child looks forward to. By following these five tips you will remove the negativity of trips to the dentist’s office and encourage a positive attitude towards dental hygiene that will last for life. 

Explain why going to the dentist is so important

Children are curious and inquisitive little beings. They like to know the who, what, when, how, and most importantly why, of things happening around them. 

By taking the time to explain in detail what will happen during their dental check-ups, and why it is an important thing to do, you will help them understand the value of going to the dentist. Talk to them about the problems that can happen if they do not look after their teeth, and tell them about how the dentist will help them avoid these problems. This way they will see the dentist as a helper rather than a stranger who is just poking their fingers in your child’s mouth for no reason. 

There are a lot of children’s books and television shows that dedicate some of their themes to “a trip to the dentist”. (eg. Peppa Pig, The Wiggles and many, many more). Explore these with your child, as they help to make the experience exciting.

Get them involved in the procedure

Children love to feel involved in things that happen to them, the same as adults do. 

Show your child pictures of different animals’ and characters and point out their teeth. Play games like counting and/or brushing the teeth of your children’s plush toys.

At Care Dental, our dentists will take time to explain what is happening as they are doing things and this will also go a long way toward helping your child relax and be interested, rather than being afraid while in the dentist’s chair. 

Help them come up with some questions

By helping your child come up with some insightful questions for their dentist about their oral hygiene you will help them feel clever and grown-up. 

Simple questions such as “what type of toothpaste is the best?” or “how long does a toothbrush last?” will help you child build a rapport with their dentist. This will also set them up to be praised by the dentist for being so clever, which will bring a smile to their face and a sense of pride to almost any child. 

Another idea is to encourage your child to draw a picture to take and give to the dentist, as this often means your child is excited to show their picture, and helps with their first introduction to the dentist.

Follow a good oral hygiene routine at home

This is very important, because a healthy mouth that is free of problems means your child’s check-up is a pleasant check-up. 

By ensuring your children always brush their teeth correctly and by providing them with a healthy balanced diet, they will avoid the unpleasant dental interventions, such as fillings and extractions which can make a visit to the dentist uncomfortable and scary. 

It is important to allow children an opportunity to brush their own teeth, however it must be noted that children lack the dexterity to properly clean their teeth on their own, and should be helped and supervised by parents. As a general rule, children develop the motor skills required to effectively brush their teeth around the time that they can write their name proficiently, although we still recommend supervising your child once they start to brush their teeth on their own.

Lead by example

Your children look up to you and take cues from your behaviour. If you never go to the dentist then why would they want to go? 

By talking to them every time you go for a check-up yourself you will show that the dentist is an important part of life and not something to be feared or avoided. Do not use a trip to the dentist as a threat. 

We commonly hear people telling children that “if they are naughty they will be taken to the dentist”, “the dentist will pull all your teeth out if you don’t brush your teeth”, or “you’ll have to get a big needle”. These kinds of statements are extremely unhelpful, and create significant anxiety and stress to a child attending the dental surgery.

It is interesting to note that while many adults find a trip to the dentist stressful (mostly due to bad experiences in their own childhoods), the treatment environment has drastically changed over the past decade. We find almost all our existing child patients find their visit to the dentist positive, and are excited to return. New patients are understandably wary on their first visit, but after they know the surroundings, they usually attend with big smiles on their faces for future visits.

Don’t wait until there is a problem before you bring your child to the dentist. A child’s mouth is a very small space, and we use strange looking tools that are very sharp and make loud noises. If a child has not been to the dentist before, it is usually impossible to expect that they will be able to tolerate treatment being performed in their mouth on their first visit. 

Be realistic about what we can expect of children - they take time to adapt and feel comfortable in new environments. It is up to adults to bring their children to the dentist regularly BEFORE any problems arise.

In cases where a child cannot be safely treated in the chair, a general anaesthetic is required, meaning significantly increased risk to the child, and cost to the parent. If we all work as a team to develop trust and positivity surrounding a trip to the dentist, many general anaesthetics can be avoided.

Lead by example and instill a positive and proactive attitude towards all oral hygiene and dental care and your children will grow-up with healthy mouths and a healthy relationship with their dentist.

At Care Dental, we believe lifelong dental care means building relationships from a very early age. With this in mind, we work extra hard to build strong and long-lasting bonds with our youngest patients, and encourage you to bring your children with you to your own dental appointments, so they can become familiar with the sights and sounds of the dental surgery.

To find out more about booking your child in for a dental check-up, contact us today.